Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: Chickens keep going missing. Shippou wonders what's wrong with him. Warning: some blood, please note rating. Who else feels that Shippou's youkai nature tends to be glossed over in the name of cuteness?
Fox in the Henhouse
Silently, he slipped through the dark night and snuck into the little shed, careful not to disturb its occupants. He couldn't afford to have them wake up and start making a racket. Nose quivering at the scent, he selected his target. His hands trembled with anticipation. Quickly, he snatched the sleeping creature and twisted its neck with a mighty wrench, feeling the panicked flutter of feathers go still. Perfect. The hen hadn't let out more than a brief squawk, and the others hadn't roused.
He slipped out of the building again and hurried away with his still-warm prize clutched in his arms. To the water — he'd need to wash thoroughly when he was finished, or the scent would stay on him. That would be a disaster around Inuyasha's keen nose.
On the dark banks of the nearby stream, Shippou tore off the feathers and sank his teeth into warm, bloody meat.
Chickens were easy prey, especially at night. They huddled inside their shed, quiet and docile, accustomed to people and easy to catch. Wild animals were much more alert, and didn't have the same tendency to sleep in large groups in an easily accessible spot.
It wasn't that often, Shippou rationalized. Just once or twice a month. But just when he started to hope that it was gone completely, the craving would come back, and eventually he'd have to give in. A single chicken was enough for him to gorge himself, and he'd spend the next day sleepy and content, the impulse quietened.
Another night, another chicken. Hunger sated, he buried the scant remains in the soft earth. He washed his hands first, then stripped to the waist and washed his face and neck in the brook, careful to remove any trace of blood. He rinsed the bloody flavour off his breath. Then he inspected his kosode and vest carefully. Inuyasha's sense of smell was even stronger than his, so he made sure that there was not a single speck of blood on the fabric before he got dressed.
Finished, he hurried back to the house his friends were staying in, and snuck back into Kagome's sleeping bag.
This village had had trouble with animals stealing their chickens before, and Shippou nearly slipped up. There was a tense moment when the guard dog woke up and sniffed around the area, but Shippou held his breath until the danger passed. Another hen was silenced before it could make a fuss, and Shippou snuck away into the night.
He was always careful not to get caught. His raids were few and far between, and tended to be attributed to wild animals breaking in. It wasn't uncommon for such things to happen, after all. More than once, Shippou had nearly choked when he heard villagers complaining about foxes getting into the henhouse. He was careful to make sure his habit didn't follow any pattern; if they stayed in a village he had stolen from in the past, he made sure not to take another hen there. People might start to get suspicious and ask questions.
He didn't like to think what the humans would do if they found out. They'd think he was a mindless animal. He couldn't bear it if the affection in Kagome's eyes turned to disappointment, or worse, disgust.
He didn't have this craving until recently. But as he grew and his powers got stronger, he started to feel drained without it. He seemed to need fresh meat to keep up his energy levels as he became more powerful. His father used to feed him a little raw meat sometimes when they were in their true forms, but he'd never felt such a need for it until lately, especially not in his human form. He felt like a hypocrite for teasing Inuyasha whenever the hanyou got impatient and ate meat half-cooked. What was happening to him?
He looked at the limp chicken on the ground and wanted to push it away. But he couldn't.
He had some standards, though. He'd never stolen from Kaede's village, the village that treated him with such kindness and didn't seem to mind that he was a youkai. One time the urge had returned while he was there, but he'd managed to catch a squirrel, so he was able to restrain himself until they had journeyed to a new village. The squirrel was small, but the different taste was nice. Sometimes chicken got so boring.
They'd been here in Kaede's village for longer than usual because Kagome had gone home to write tests, and he'd been fighting the craving for the last five days. He hadn't been able to catch any small wild animals, and he was starting to feel light-headed. He could feel his willpower crumbling. Twice during the last two nights he had found himself circling a neighbour's chicken shed, and he'd been forced to flee when his stress had woken the chickens and they started squawking.
"Something was after Daiki-san's hens last night," Kaede said at breakfast. "None were taken though, so whatever it was must have gotten spooked and fled."
Shippou tried not to feel guilty.
Kagome came back that evening, and Shippou felt relieved, until she said that she was going to have to return to her era for another two days. Shippou felt sick as he watched Inuyasha throw a temper tantrum, and for once he agreed with the hanyou's desire to go travelling again.
Kagome stayed in Kaede's hut that night with plans to go back through the well in the morning. Her presence somehow made it feel all the worse when he crept out in the darkness, covered in a cold sweat, and entered the nearest henhouse.
Denying the craving for the last six days had not been good for his reflexes, and he messed up. One misstep, and the hens were all squawking and flapping in alarm, the one tucked under his arm was not as dead and quiet as it should have been, and Shippou panicked.
He took off into the night, breaking the chicken's neck as he ran so that it would shut up and not give him away. He could hear angry human shouts now as he fled in the direction of the woods, grateful for the darkness that covered his escape. Finally, he'd gone far enough that the sounds faded, and he tore into the chicken ravenously, heedless of the blood that was getting everywhere, oblivious to anything else around him.
At this cry, he suddenly got hold of his senses again, and blinked up into the bright lantern light. Everything in his vision had a reddish cast to it, and he abruptly realized that he had let his youki loose to the point that his eyes were glowing red. Hurriedly, he reined his youki back in, starting to tremble with the mounting horror of being discovered. He felt like he might throw up when he realized that he had blood all over his hands and clothes and face.
Then the tears came, and he folded in on himself, like an apologetic bow turned into a cowering defensive position. He didn't want to look beyond the lamplight to see their faces. He didn't want to see what sort of expressions they must be wearing. This was it. They'd hate him. They'd be disgusted by him. He must look like a monster; how could they not hate him?
"I'm sorry," he whimpered, pitifully, futilely, into the ground, "I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. Please don't hate me, please please don't, I'm sorry, I couldn't stop I couldn't help it I couldn't…"
There were footsteps, and he cringed and curled up tighter. Was he going to be cast out? Beaten? Maybe even killed? Monsters always got what they deserved, right? That's how the stories always ended. He yelped when hands grabbed his sides, and he squeezed his eyes even more tightly closed in anticipation of pain.
Instead of being hurt, he was bundled into strong arms and held to a warm chest.
"It ain't yer fault. I should'a seen this coming. You needed the raw meat when yer powers started growing. It ain't yer fault."
It was Inuyasha holding him — Inuyasha, of all people, trying to soothe him. Somehow that was too much to cope with on top of all the guilt and shame and secrecy of the last few months. He started sobbing, desperately clutching great handfuls of the front of Inuyasha's fire rat robe. For a moment, Inuyasha just let him cry.
Inuyasha started speaking again.
"Miroku, go tell them it was just a fox that got into the chicken shed — that ain't far from the truth, and they don't gotta know any different. Kagome, go find something for Shippou to wear, but don't bring it, you might be followed. You go with her, Sango, and explain to her and Kaede. You know what's goin' on, right? I'll get the runt cleaned up so no one finds out."
Then they were in motion, the wind from Inuyasha's rapid pace ruffling Shippou's hair and the fur of his tail. He clung miserably to Inuyasha and kept his head tucked down, eyes closed. It felt like Inuyasha was the only thing that made sense right now.
Shippou could hear the stream now, and Inuyasha came to a stop. Shippou felt him sit down.
"Please stop crying, Shippou," Inuyasha muttered. Inuyasha never liked it when people cried. "I gotcha now. Yer all right. It wasn't yer fault, and we can fix it now. Just stop crying."
"They'll think I'm a monster!" The words burst from Shippou, and he sobbed harder. "And Kagome won't want me to stay!"
"You little idiot," Inuyasha said, his words rough, but his tone gentle. "I've eaten stuff raw, back when I didn't have a way to cook it, and I don't even need raw meat, on account'a me bein' a hanyou. Kagome's seen me slaughter humans and she hasn't turned her back yet. Hell, fucking Kouga used to eat humans, and Kagome still lets him come sniffin' around. Stealin' a few chickens ain't nothin'. Sango'll explain it all, and it'll be fine. Please don't cry anymore."
Shippou made a valiant effort to calm his tears, though he still didn't dare to lift his head and face Inuyasha's gaze.
"What's wrong with me?" he whimpered.
"Nothing!" Inuyasha exclaimed, almost as thought the question offended him. "Yer a kitsune. Kitsune need meat ta live, just like inu youkai or ookami youkai or nekomata like Kirara, or any other predators. If I'd been smarter, I'd'a realized when we first met you that you were old enough to start needin' to hunt and eat fresh meat."
"But I ate it like an animal," Shippou argued, voicing what had bothered him the most. "All bloody, and off the ground."
"That's cuz you've been trying to ignore it," Inuyasha answered. "Yer instincts get too strong, till yeh can't resist."
"So…" Shippou tested the idea tentatively, "…I'm normal?"
"Well, yer eating habits are, anyway. I ain't so sure about the rest of you."
Shippou smacked his hand against Inuyasha's chest in retaliation for the teasing, but of course Inuyasha was far too strong for it to hurt. He was smirking when Shippou finally looked up at him. He set Shippou on his feet and pretended not to notice as Shippou tried to find a clean patch of sleeve to wipe his face with.
"Now hurry up and finish yer chicken, and then we'll getcha cleaned up," Inuyasha directed, standing up.
Shippou suddenly realized that Inuyasha had brought the half-eaten chicken with him. It was a bloody mess.
"I don't want it anymore."
"Eat it," Inuyasha ordered. "You need it."
Inuyasha walked over to the stream and took off his fire rat suikan to wash Shippou's bloody handprints off the front of it. He began a steady, quiet monologue as he did so, his tone casual.
"I'll take yeh hunting when we're back on the road again. Once every week or two should work. Two more days and we can leave, unless Kagome tries to squirm her way out of it again. Ha! No way I'm letting that happen! Miroku says he heard a rumour about a youkai that's gone crazy, attacking some village. Sounds like a jewel shard to me, so we'll find it and I'll waste the thing…"
Slowly, as Inuyasha's voice washed over him, Shippou relaxed enough to start eating.
AN: Yes, I consciously made Shippou act like a druggy craving a fix. The raw meat's not an addiction, however, he needs it to survive. We really don't see a lot of youkai instincts in Shippou usually, so this was an interesting idea to play with. Shippou is a fox, not a human child. It stands to reason that the need to hunt would be innate.
Youki – youkai energy
Youkai – spirit or apparition, usually translated to demon
Hanyou - half demon
Kitsune – fox
Inu - dog
Ookami – wolf
Nekomata – two-tailed cat youkai
Suikan – Inuyasha's jacket